"The water from the spring has made me suffer from typhoid on many occasions, and this had resulted in spending more money on medication," said 27-year-old farmer Carolyne Masava, a resident of Mahira.
Along with 350 of her fellow community members, Carolyne depends on Mukalama spring for all of her daily water needs. But as the spring is unprotected, it is not meeting those needs.
The challenges at Mukalama Spring in Mahira are many. First and foremost, Mukalama Spring is open to contamination. As Carolyne noted, consuming the contaminated spring water leads to water-related sicknesses among community members. Cases of diarrhea and typhoid are widespread and frequent, but grow worse in the rainy season when the rains pour extra dirty surface runoff into the spring. The runoff carries with it farm chemicals and animal waste.
There is a chlorine dispenser at the spring, but it is not always stocked, and some community members forget to use it in their rush to get back home to start their other work. The money that community members have to spend seeking medical treatment for their water-related diseases could otherwise be spent on more productive endeavors at home, on the farm, and on school fees for their children.
The road leading to the spring is fairly done, but the immediate environment around the spring is bushy and the drainage is very poor. People have to step into several inches of muddy water as they try to reach the discharge area, not knowing what could lie beneath the water's surface such as snakes, worms, or other dangerous animals. The access area is slippery, and mothers cannot send their youngest children to help fetch water for fear they will drown in the large pool of water. This puts even more strain on the women and older children, as men typically do not fetch water here.
At one point, the community tried to protect their spring but without all of the necessary materials or technical knowledge to do so properly. All that is left of their efforts is a pipe stuck in a small outcropping of cement, but above it, the spring's source remains completely open to the environment. This is why their water remains contaminated. Because the pieces of past work do not fully capture the spring's output, the yield is not as strong as it could be.
As a result, community members crowd at the unprotected spring to draw water. Occasionally people will engage in physical fights over who is to draw water first, as the entire process is time-consuming and frustrating.
"The people from this community make long queues to draw water from the unprotected spring. Sometimes children are pushed aside by the adults in order to draw water first," explained young primary school student Brian.
All of this time lost at the spring could be better spent on other productive activities, including homework for children. And the crowds are especially concerning during the pandemic, when people are trying to avoid groups and limit their time spent in public.
What We Can Do:
Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.
Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.
The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.
With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
One of the most important issues we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We and the community strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.
We will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.
Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.
At the end of the training, participants will select 5 families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors called sanitation platforms. Training will inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, including bricks, clean sand, and gravel.
The 5 families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. Our trainers then instruct them on how to build superstructures over their new platforms. These 5 sanitation platforms will serve as examples for the rest of the community to replicate.
All community members must work together to make sure that they continuously provide accommodations and food for the work teams throughout all stages of spring and sanitation platform construction.